Dzogchen Dance of Vajra Yantra Yoga
...There are three principal paths or methods of teaching: the path of renunciation, the path of transformation and the path of self-liberation, based, respectively, on the teachings of the Sutras, the Tantras, and on Dzogchen. These correspond to the three aspects of body, voice, and mind, called 'the three gates', because they are the three ways to enter into the state of knowledge.
path of renunciation
The path of renunciation is included in the Sutra teaching, that is, in the discourses said to have been given by Buddha Shakyamuni himself. ...
...The basic principle of this 'renunciation' is that, to bring about the cessation of the causes of suffering and of transmigration, it is necessary to renounce or abstain from carrying out actions that produce negative karma.
...The means to fulfil the path of renunciation are through the observation of the rules of behaviour established by the Buddha, contained in the Vinaya, the code of Buddhist monastic law. By observing the precepts relating to the body, voice and mind, it is possible to purify negative karma and accumulate positive karma. Furthermore, the maintaining of a vow is a source of merit in itself. For example, if one refrains from stealing one accumulates a double virtue: first for not having committed the negative action, and secondly for maintaining the vow. This whole method is based on limiting the behaviour of the individual, principally at the level of body, that is, at the level of the material dimension.
In the Sutras, the principle of the elimination of negative karma is also the basis of the meditation practice, whose aim is that of finding a state of mental calm in which thoughts are no longer able to disturb one. By this means one avoids the possibility of producing karma through becoming caught up in one's passions. Realization is considered to be arrived at in the extinction of the individual's illusory ego, which is the root of all desires and conflicts. These concepts are, properly speaking, those of the Hinayana or Theravada Buddhist tradition, which is more faithful to the explanations given in the earliest teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. The Mahayana, on the other hand, is based on more profound considerations, such as universal compassion and the voidness of all phenomena. In both these traditions, however, vows are a fundamental element in putting renunciation into action. ...
the path of transformation
...The Tantras are teachings based on the knowledge and application of energy. Their origin is not to be found in the oral teachings of a master, as is the case with the Sutras taught by the Buddha, but stems from the manifestation in pure vision of a realized being. A pure manifestation arises through the energy of the elements in their subtle and luminous aspect, while our karmic vision is based on their gross or material aspect. To receive this type of transmission, it is therefore necessary to have the capacity to perceive the subtle dimension of light. ...
Excerpts from the Self Perfected State
the path of self-liberation
The Dzogchen teachings are neither a philosophy, nor a religious doctrine, nor a cultural tradition. Understanding the message of the teachings means discovering one's own true condition, stripped of all the self-deceptions and falsifications which the mind creates. The very meaning of the Tibetan term Dzogchen, 'Great Perfection', refers to the true primordial state of every individual and not to any transcendent reality.
The particular method of Dzogchen is called the Path of Self-Liberation, and to apply it nothing need be renounced, purified, or transformed. Whatever arises as one's karmic vision is used as the path. The great master Pha Tampa Sangye [South Indian Yogin of the 11 century (ed.)] once said: It is not the circumstances which arise as one's karmic vision that condition a person into the dualistic state; it is a person's own attachment that enables what arises to condition him. If this attachment is to be cut through in the most rapid and effective way, the mind's spontaneous capacity to self-liberate must be brought into play. The term self-liberation should not, however, be taken as implying that there is some 'self' or ego there to be liberated. It is a fundamental assumption...at the Dzogchen level, that all phenomena are void of self-nature. 'Self -Liberation', in the Dzogchen sense, means that whatever manifests in the field of experience of the practitioner is allowed to arise just as it is, without judgement of it as good or bad, beautiful or ugly. And in that same moment, if there is no clinging, or attachment, without effort, or even volition, whatever it is that arises, whether as a thought or as a seemingly external event, automatically liberates itself, by itself, and of itself. Practicing in this way the seeds of the poison tree of dualistic vision never even get a chance to sprout, much less to take root and grow.(p33)
Not Sutra, not Tantra, Dzogchen does not see itself as the high point of any hierarchy of levels, and is not a gradual path. Dzogchen is the Path of Self-Liberation, and not the Path of Transformation, so it does not use visualization as a principle practice; but it is beyond limits, and practices of any of the other levels can be used as secondary practices. The principle practice of Dzogchen is to enter directly into non-dual contemplation, and to remain in it, continuing to deepen it until one reaches Total Realization.
Excerpt from Namgyalgar Website